Category Archives: Knitting

At last!

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I have been talking about knitting Sibella for well over a year now. When Carrie Bostick Hoge released Madder Anthology 1, the Sibella Cardigan immediately jumped out at me. It has a fairly simple construction and style, with an interest yoke detail, making it a lot like Grace, which I wear all the time.

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What a lovely grey! This is Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus in Graphite, which I picked up during her studio sale last year.

Since I first mentioned my desire to knit Sibella, I have knit four other sweaters! And every time, I seem to reaffirm my plan to knit Sibella next… I think part of what has been holding me back is that it’s fingering weight, which is eminently practical but slow to knit. And, I couldn’t quite decide on a colour: I needed and wanted a grey cardigan (having lamented numerous times about not having a go-to neutral), but it always seems like it would be so much more fun to knit this in a colour.

But, my desire to have this cardigan in my closet, and the increasing sense that If I just had Sibella done, I’d have the right thing to wear finally pushed me over the edge. Spring is almost here, making this the perfect time to knit a lightweight sweater, and not such a bad time to knit a grey one. That I had the perfect grey yarn in my stash definitely helped.

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I triumphantly cast on last weekend and having been knitting away fairly contentedly since. The gauge is quite loose (and I’m knitting slightly tight, as usual), so I have had to fix a few little blips (I keep purling into the row below, for example), but I can already tell that the fabric will have a nice drape and be comfortable to wear. I’ve just started the waist shaping, which means I’m about a third of the way through the body.

I have a little goal to finish this in time to wear it during Me Made May. May is a nice month, to be sure, but it definitely requires layering, and it became very clear last year that if I want to create an everyday-wearable hand-made wardrobe, I need neutral pieces. Part of the reason I participated in MMM last year (and intend to again this year) was so I could see where the hole in my handmade wardrobe were and then do something about them. I am very pleased that Sibella will do both, though I should probably stop typing and get back to knitting — those long rows of grey stockinette aren’t going to knit themselves.

Here & There: Making it happen edition

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My current in-between socks are these very fun stripes. These were kind of supposed to be my Christmas socks, but I think the colours work year-round. (Yarn is the fantastic Nomadic Yarns Twisty Sock in Grinchmas.)

Every year I think, Finish it up February — yeah! This is the year I pull out my WIPs and get stuff done! and then, of course, some new project presents itself and I decide that it’s more important or more interesting and do that instead. This year, it was baby things — little gifts for a newborn and 1st birthday presents for Amber — and there is pretty much no way to make a case against prioritizing those, right?

Once those were done, I decided to use my time to pick up an old project (my current in-between socks) and finally start sewing something. Slow and steady has been focus this February, and even though that doesn’t offer the same kind of quick-hit joy as finishing a lot of things, I am finding it energizing to give myself time to really sink into a project with no immediate pressure to finish.

So, in lieu of exciting project photos, here are some of the excellent things I’ve read this month — often, truth be told, while knitting away on something or other.

  • In a knitting club, I found a cure for selfishness and cynicism: An essay about knitting (and knitters) and how generous the community can be: “You may think you know the kind of person who knits her own socks or sweaters, but trust me, you don’t. Gender, race, religion and country of origin mean nothing in the knitting world.”
  • This tweet (I won’t retype it, just click for second) is so, so funny. As a journalist, I know exactly how and why this kind of query would come about, but as a knitter, man, it makes me laugh every time.
  • A ravel of knitting words: Merriam-Webster explores the origins of 10 knitting terms.
  • How Christian Siriano is changing the red carpet: As a former Project Runway devotee, I can’t resist stories about its contestants design life. That Siriano has gone on to not only become a bonafide star, but also to use his talent to design clothing for women of all sizes, is fantastic.
  • Chris Rock answer VF’s Proust questionnaire: “What is your motto? ‘You can’t be great on the side.’ Whenever one of my friends starts telling me about the 12 projects they’re working on simultaneously, I always say, ‘Slow down. You can’t be great on the side.’ “
  • Visions of the Future: A few years ago, when we were in Boston, I went to the International Poster Gallery, which is a collection of old travel advertising posters (it is fascinating). JPL’s new poster series for various planets and moons reminds me so much of that, and I love that they’re all free to download and print as you like. I suspect a few will end up on our walls (my favourites are The Grand Tour, Enceladus, and Titan).
  • The health benefits of being lazy (need I say more?)
  • The Story of a Fuck-Off Fund: Julie linked to this last week and I’m reposting here: Every woman should have one of these (everyone, really, but women especially I think).
  • How do I become … a fabric designer: Well, obviously being a fantastic artist is a good start, but Vanessa Lawes’ story has more to it than that. Her work is gorgeous, though.
  • Five ways to kick-start your sewing mojo: A list I very much needed, even if only acknowledge that my sewing mojo needed a kick. (Karen linked to it in one of her best Elsewhere posts — seriously, each of those links is gold).
  • And, a couple of yummy-sounding recipes that I have yet to try, but want to: Chef’s Showcase: Curried Lentil & Apricot Soup (includes a great story about the chef, Ravi, who is Toronto-famous for his soups) and Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese, I see no way that that combination could be anything but delicious.
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I am sewing again! This is/will be a Southport Dress. I’m most of the way finished the bodice, with the rest of the pieces cut and ready to go. I’m very excited to see how it turns out. More details later.

The dalas of my dreams

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I first started scheming about set of accessories featuring dala horses nearly five months ago, right as I was on the cusp of my holiday knitting. It took me a while, but that set is now finished, and it turned out better than I could have imagined.

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Let’s tackle the hat first. This is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the recent Autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. I wanted a deeper folding brim, so I subbed in the one from Skiff, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the Platonic ideal of a fold-up brim. I took basically no notes about my mods, apparently, but I think I cast on 120 stitches and then followed the instructions for Skiff with one further modification: After I was about an inch into the brim, I realized that my chosen yarn* was, to put it mildly, rather sheepy. That’s pretty perfect for a pattern from Pom Pom’s “wool issue,” but not the most comfortable next-to-skin yarn. So, after the turning row (makes sense in the Skiff pattern), I switched and knit the next 2.75 inches with some leftover Shelter in Snowbound. It’s pretty invisible when I’m wearing the hat, but much more comfortable against my forehead.

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Aside from the brim, I knit this exactly as written and it was a total pleasure. It’s alway fun to watch charts appear in your knitting, and though I did have to tink back a few times when I wasn’t quite paying attention, it was quite straightforward. I made the larger size, for a bit of slouch (and to accommodate all my hair) and I’m very pleased with the size and the big pompom. I can’t remember ever having a pompom hat before (maybe when I was a kid?) but I’m quite taken with this one and think there are probably more in my future.

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Now, the mittens. The pattern is really just a few notes and a chart that you work right-to-left for one mitten and then left-to-right for the other. It’s quite barebones, but if you’ve ever knit stranded mittens before it’s quite easy to follow along.

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I did (of course) make a few modifications. I added length to the heel of the hand (before starting the thumb increases) and then added a few more rows at the top of the thumb gusset, before placing those stitches onto waste yarn. Then, I recharted the top of the hand to add extra length. I added length to the thumb as well, and changed the chart for the inside of the thumb — rather than adding words, I just continued the palm charts up the thumb. I also changed the cuff — just straight 2×2 ribbing, knit in a contrast since the grey came from my stash and I didn’t want to risk running out (turns out I would have been fine, but best to be sure).

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As an overall set, I think they work very well. They all match, but do so without being matchy, if you know what I mean. The dala charts themselves are exactly the same, just knit at very different gauges, which was a nice coincidence, and meant that by the time I’d knit all the horses on the hat I was pretty much a pro when it came time to knit the mittens! They’re quite cozy, and though I know they’ll fuzz up quite a lot (Fresco does that — it looks a little messy, but it does make for very warm mitts), I don’t mind so much. They’re nice and crisp right now, and I’m enjoying them very much.

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*A note about my yarn choice. This yarn is from a sheep farm and dyer local to my parents in Nova Scotia. If I am remembering all of this correctly (dam my scanty notes!), the yarn was milled at the MacAusland Woollen Mills in Prince Edward Island. They sell yarn wholesale, but farmers can also send in their own wool to be milled. All the wool gets milled together, and the farmer receives the same weight back as they sent in, though all the fleeces are mixed. The neutral is an undyed grey/brown and the gold/brown is hand-dyed, both are a wool-mohair blend.

Ticking all the boxes

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Last week, I finished my Dala Mitts (photos coming soon), which meant it was time to dive into some baby knitting. One of my best friends from high school is due this month, and Amber‘s first birthday is in a couple of weeks (I can’t believe she’s a year old) and that means lots of little knitting. When I started knitting again six years ago, I couldn’t understand the appeal of baby things. Tiny patterns seemed to proliferate, and during my brief time working and teaching in a knitting shop, patterns and yarns for babies seemed to be half the business. Maybe it just takes having some babies in your life to get it, but I am increasingly enchanted by tiny garments — both how adorable they are and how much fun they can be to knit.

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Anyway, when it came to choosing a pattern to knit for the new baby (a girl), I knew what yarn I wanted to use (Malabrigo Sock in Dewberry, from deep in my stash) but I couldnt’ quite settle on a pattern. My go-to baby cardigan is Tanis Lavallee’s Sunnyside, which I’ve knit three times and unabashedly adore. I even though I’d knit the lace version this time, which was kind of exciting. This was the plan, so when it came time to actually cast on I was surprised that I felt kind of restless about my pattern choice. Maybe it was the prospect of all that stockinette, I’m not sure, but something sent me searching through Ravelry for an alternative.

And then, I found it: the February Baby Sweater. I’ve owned The Knitter’s Almanac for years, and though I read it cover to cover, I’ve never actually knit any of the patterns in it. Crazy, right? Clearly, though, this was too perfect to pass up: Baby girl, due in February, plus the fact that I would be knitting it in February — clearly meant to be.

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Just about to separate for the sleeves.

I cast on last weekend and, after figuring out some modifications for my smaller gauge (EZ’s version uses worsted- or DK-weight, but I’m using fingering-weight — I’ve outlined my mods here), I’ve just been happily knitting away. After the total pleasure of knitting my Dala Mitts, this little sweater is a worthy successor, and it really does tick all my boxes: I’m using yarn and pattern from my stash, the knitting is interesting but doesn’t require full attention, and in not too long I’ll have an adorable gift for a good friend. Hard to beat that combination, really.

In for a penny

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In a for a pound, or so the saying goes, and which is really just my way of saying that the dala set I started with Karusellen is really and truly happening. And, look! I even have half a pair of mittens to prove it.

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The colours are not an exact match for the hat, but the scheme is the same, and they both feature dala horses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider them a set. The first mitten flew off my needles (sans thumb) over the weekend, and the second one (despite appearances here) is well into the thumb increases. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a finished pair by this time next week, which would be very good. I had to mend my old mittens again the other day, and they are in no shape to see me through the cold days to come.

Fashionably late

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Karusellen, off the needles and destined for blocking and then finishing (I can’t wait to sew on that pompom!)

The time has come! I know it’s late for the traditional intentions/goals/resolutions setting, but there are still 50 weeks left in 2016, so I think I’m safe. Anyway, without any further ado, here is where I see this year going, and what I want to prioritize as it unfolds, when I look out over the (mostly) empty pages of my calendar.

  1. More winter accessories: At the moment, I have one hat, one pair of mittens, and one cowl. I live in a place that gets approximately six months of cold weather a year, and probably half that time is really cold (-10C/14F or colder), so what the heck!? If I am going to spend half the year wearing mittens and hats and scarves and cowls, I feel that my hand-knit wardrobe should reflect that a little more. I’m just finishing my new hat (Karusellen, above), and have plans for at least one more. I’d also like to knit a couple pairs of mittens, another pair of fingerless mitts, and maybe a couple of cowls. These projects will also be excellent ways to use up the odd bits in my stash, which brings me to…
  2. Knitting up my stash: I actually think I did pretty well with this last year (11 of the the garments/items I knit were knit from stash), but I also think I added more to my stash than I knit, which is a problem. I don’t want to get rid of my stash by any stretch, but I think keeping the yardage at neutral is a reasonable goal for the year, and using up yarn I have rather than buying more of the same is just sensible.
    2b. Use what’s in my stash as a basis for choosing projects. In the past, I’ve tried to shoehorn my stash into projects I want to make, and that has not been a recipe for success (as a recipe for buying new yarn, though, it has excelled). This year, I’m going to try harder to think about what yarn I want to knit with, and then look for a suitable project.
    2c. NO MORE SOCK YARN. That’s in all-caps, because I’m yelling it at myself. I have a ton of sock yarn, and the rate at which I knit socks has decreased by quite a lot as I’ve started prioritizing larger garments. I have more than enough to see me through several years, so I can certainly go one year without buying more. This is my one hard-and-fast resolution, and I am going to be militant about it (aside from gifts, of course).

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    L will get at least two more pairs of striped socks this year. The top yarn is one he chose, Zitron Unisono #1210, and the bottom two are Knit Picks Felici in Baker Street.

  3. Knit more socks for L: This is a pretty easy one even with the above injunction. I have lots of man-specific sock yarn in my stash (purchased with L in mind) and this winter he has really embraced hand-knit socks. He was always appreciative in the past, but maybe moving to a slightly colder city has had an affect — he wore the pair I gave him for Christmas for four days straight. And then picked out yarn for a new pair the next time we were in an LYS. So, yes, I would say he’s onboard, and there’s nothing like an appreciative recipient to encourage output.
  4. Spread my holiday knitting throughout the year: I desperately need to stop the routine I’m in of not starting anything until mid-October. It’s crazy, and stresses me out way too much. This year, I’m starting in the spring and want to be half done by September. Totally doable.
  5. Sweaters! I have yarn for four, and if I finish two I will be very, very happy. I’d like to knit at least one cardigan and one pullover this year (maybe two pullovers, if I get my act together early). The next week or two are for swatching, and then the fun begins.
  6. Actually sew: I get so in my head about how time-consuming and labour-intensive sewing is, and as a result I spend more time thinking about how much work it will be than actually just doing the work. It’s ridiculous, and the only way to stop that spiral is to just do it already. I was given the pattern for the Gallery Tunic & Dress and I have the fabric for it, so that’s where I’m starting. Today I plan to trace the pattern and cut the fabric. If I don’t get farther than that, fine, maybe the secret to sewing is not trying to cram everything into one long exhausting session. I really do want to sew, but I’m so intimidated!
  7. Stop worrying about productivity: It can be hard to read blogs or check Ravelry and see people who are able to churn out one or two finished garments a week (or, more astoundingly, seven or eight sweaters a year). The why can’t I do that? question sometimes rings in the back of my mind, and I just need to get over it. My life has changed, this year is going to be nuts, and I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. Even if it takes me a month to knit a pair of socks now, I need to remember that I am still knitting and am still producing, and when your time is limited things take longer. I’m sure I’ll still struggle with it, but I hope I can get better at practicing patience with myself.
  8. Be a better blogger! This is something else that stressed me out last year, for absolutely no good reason. Last year I worried too much about having the time to write a long post, or getting up-to-date photos, and lots of other (in retrospect) silly little things that kept me from actually sitting down and writing. This year, I’m not going to let those things get in the way. Blog posts not happening in the order I had arbitrarily planned? Who cares (hence this post coming so late). Photo not a 100% accurate representation of where I am in a project? Oh well! I have come to realize that, in order to blog during the week, I need to take the photos one day, write one day, and proofread/post on another day. That obviously means things won’t line up exactly, but that’s okay. I’m aiming to post at least once a week this year, so prepare yourselves for lots of in-progress knitting. When blogging was a habit, it was easy, and I just need to get it back into my routine.

So, there you have it! Ten things for 2016, and some of them already in practice. Not so bad, late start notwithstanding. I’m sure you’ve all already written about your own goals/intentions for the year, so please feel free to share them in the comments — either your top picks, or a link, or whatever. Sometimes letting others in on your plans makes them feel more concrete and attainable (at least that’s what I’m banking on).

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Up next for me: The white yarn on the left is a gorgeous skein of 100% alpaca that my almost-sister-in-law (and her husband) gave me for Christmas. It’s from a local farm and the name of the Alpaca the wool is from is on the label! It is incredibly soft, and I can’t wait to turn it into a cozy cowl. The two right-hand skeins are Classic Elite Fresco (in Greystone and Superman Yellow) and they will be my Dala mittens.

I’m working on it

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And by “it,” I mean both my selection of winter accessories (which is very thin) and this hat, which is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the fall issue of PomPom Quarterly (I just renewed by subscription, actually — I can’t believe it’s already been a year!).

Anyway, about this hat. I opted for a deeper doubled brim, because it is friggin’ cold here (currently -14C, feels like -23C, which converts to about 7F and -9F) and I wanted a hat I could pull right down to my eyebrows when necessary. I’m knitting this is quite a sheepy, farmy, rustic yarn, which I got a couple of years ago. It’s from a farm called Lamb’s Run, near where I grew up, and the gold/brown was dyed the woman who lives there. It’s a wool/mohair blend, though I couldn’t tell you the proportions, and I suspect (hope) it will soften up with a wash. Either way, it will be very warm, and since I managed to knit the heads on these dala horses last night and start the decreases, I think I will be wearing it very soon!

I wrote ages ago about my plan for a Dala set, so once this is off the needles, these are going on. And not a moment too soon, since my mittens are just about to wear through again (I’ve already patched them once…)